Friday, August 27, 2010

I never look away, that's no lie (Phoenix Foundation)

I'm a big fan of songs that refer to the mythic nature of a landscape. Great Southern Land by Icehouse (Australia), In A Big Country - Big Country (Scotland), Haunts of Ancient Peace - Van Morrison (England), and Chuck Berry's The Promised Land are some that do the job.

NZ is so small and so young - we don't have a great tradition of this kind of thing. The Night Train Back to Waiuku (by the wonderful Murray Grindley) is a great song but it doesn't do a mythic job - more the ironic. A singer songwriter I loved in the 70s has a couple of songs that head in the right direction. John Hanlon is his name (where is he now? In Aus apparently - running an advertising agency) and he was a big deal there for a while in the mid seventies with his combination of John Denver style concerns for the environment (I Care and Damn The Dam) and Leo Sayer/Cat Stevens style rock.

His two best albums were Higher Trails (1975) and Garden Fresh (1974). The songs I'm thinking of are on the latter - I'd Rather Be A Bird and On A Hillside In The Rain.

How refreshing for an Auckland, NZ kid like me to hear a song that starts - 'Heading out of Auckland/ in the morning rain'. We'd heard songs for years about the rest of the world out there somewhere (I was a teenager growing up in middle class suburbia and had no clue about the world even though I gorged myself on American comics, music and films). The line hooked me and the mention of rain was specific (unlike the Beatles' Rain) and something I knew about.

Same with On A Hillside... I've always associated the song with growing up on the slopes of One Tree Hill in Auckland and the sound effects of the rain are judicious!

Here is his music, the setting is NZ, the adventurers are American.

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